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Farewell Tom Alter - the bona fide blue-eyed 'Angrez' of Bollywood
Veteran film, television and theatre actor Tom Alter quietly slipped into the pages of history after losing battle against fourth stage skin cancer at his Mumbai home on Friday night.

Alter, is most remembered for featuring as the quintessential gora or angrez (Hindi slang words used for referring to Englishmen) in numerous Bollywood classics during the 70s and 80s.


Born in 1950, in the hill town of Mussoorie, despite his American descent, Alter could speak fluent Hindi and Urdu. His first role in Hindi films came in the 1976 Dharmendra starrer film Charas, in which he played the role of a customs officer. However, his role which is still etched in memory is that of the evil angrez afsar in Manoj Kumar's classic Kranti (1980).

Owing to his looks, the actor was stereotyped as the proverbial white man of Hindi cinema, a stark image which he carried along with him even during the 90s and until the fag end of his life.

In Alter's own words, this fact, he always lamented. The actor while speaking to TOI recently, said, "I've worked in more than 400 films so far, of which, I have played the role of Britisher in 10 films. It's 2017 and I am still called the Angrez."


However, theatre always remained the veteran actor's first love. Padma Shri Tom Alter played various historical characters in his stage performances, right from Mirza Ghalib to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to Mahatma Gandhi. Alter also has the distinction of being the first man during his stint as a sports journalist to have interviewed a young Sachin Tendulkar when he arrived at the horizon of Indian cricket in 1989.

Tom Alter was a graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), where his batch mates included the likes of Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi.

Later, in the 90s era when Indian television saw a formidable boom, Alter starred in two long running television shows. His most memorable TV performance came in the show Junoon, in which he played Keshav Kalsi, a nefarious gang leader. Junoon which aired on state-owned Doordarshan ran for a record five years owing to its popularity among the audience.

Even frail health couldn't stop the gritty actor from performing on stage. Tom Alter, in August this year, had posted on Twitter a picture of himself essaying the role of last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. Alter never hung his boots and had the zeal to act until his last day. Actors like him are seldom born. RIP Tom Alter! You may not be with us in flesh and blood, but you shall remain in our hearts till apocalypse.

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